Envious weather, a handful of neighbours, fertile soil…old timers in Kovaipudur speak to Subha J. Rao about life in the area that has just turned 50

Fierce winds that could blow a person away. A cold blanket of mist that covered everything in its midst. Rain that thundered down on the red soil. That’s how Meenakshi Hariharan, 64, remembers Kovaipudur, the still-new locality she moved to with her husband N. Hariharan 37 years ago.

The couple has seen Kovaipudur, which celebrated 50 years of its existence recently, grow from a sleepy locality to one bustling with people and activity. “Initially, there were few shops. Nothing was readily available. And, that’s how I turned a kitchen gardener. Kovaipudur’s soil is so fertile, anything would grow. Thuvarai, ladies finger, bottle gourd, avarai, greens….I would just plant the seeds and before I knew it, it would be harvest time,” she recalls.

Hariharan, 70, was transferred to the post office in Kovaipudur in 1976. “Many people in the city hardly knew of the place, but I moved in, because the post office came with a quarters,” he says. He recalls delivering telegrams at night, tapping a cane as he went about the still unpopulated colony. “There were so many snakes; we would never venture out without sticks,” he says.

Meenakshi, who worked in the Telephones department, says that there were just a couple of bus routes. “One Mr. Rajan owned a bus and Raman was the driver. He would honk before starting the bus, and I would lock the house and step out,” she says. The bus was full of friendly faces, for there were just a handful of houses.

“Those days, there was just one postman,” remembers A. Manian, 62, who worked in the locality as postman for 37 years. “Every day, I would deliver about 200 letters. The houses were scattered; there was no proper layout or rows of houses,” he recalls.

“I remember the saplings people planted, the trees they grew into. Those numerous trees are such landmarks,” he says. And, two years after he retired, Manian still visits the locality every two days. “I can’t sleep if I don’t visit Kovaipudur. It was where I made my life.”

The trees are something K.T. Balashanmugam remembers the most too. He was the first councillor of the area from 1996-2001. His father, S. Thangavelu Chettiar was among the earliest to live in Kovaipudur. “I grew up in house number T-35, and still live there,” smiles Balashanmugam. “But, how my Kovaipudur has changed! It’s no longer the quiet place it was.”

Kovaipudur is special to Col A. Sridharan of Serene Retirement Communities. For that was where he began his second stint after years in the defence services. “The low land cost was a huge factor in our move to the area,” says Col Sridharan, who lived there from 1992-2007. “Then, we discovered its calm.” It was in Kovaipudur that he started his first big-ticket housing project. “In a way, I grew up there. I owe my second career to Kovaipudur.”

Venkateswaran Shenoi, 70, lived in Kovaipudur from 1975 to 2007, before moving to Kochi. “The spaciousness was what attracted me to the place. I remember people telling me that the area was inspired by Chandigarh. They wanted to build a well-planned satellite city; that was Kovaipudur.” Venkateswaran remembers the fierce June rain. “There would be a steady downpour for three whole weeks. And, how can I forget the heavenly breeze?” he says.

He remembers the excitement when the locality was to get Siruvani water. “All of us waited near the funnel water tank (see pic). But, there was no water. A pipeline had burst. There was a pall of disappointment. Finally, we got water 10 days later.” Today, those memories are what keep people going. Hariharan says that from a time when a borewell would yield water at 10 ft, today, many dig upto a 1,000 ft in search of water.

The breeze that Kovaipudur is famous for is because of the Plaghat Gap. “Sometimes, we would have to hold on to something when standing on the road; the wind could blow people off!” says Meenakshi. Venkateswaran still remembers the house he lived in, where a passion fruit creeper trailed by the swing. “The trees, the trees…” sighs an old-time resident. “They are Kovaipudur’s landmarks.” Thankfully, despite the increased population (almost a lakh people now), the green cover in Kovaipudur has not diminished much.

Every evening, the area resembles a well thought-out painting. Looming brown-green mountains in the background, a fiery orange setting sun, unique funnel water tanks rising up the skyline, birds flying back to roost in the dense green trees, and people getting back to the suburbs, for some peace and quiet from the chaos of city life.

The beginning

Kovaipudur was carved out of 285 acres of land taken from Sundakamuthur. It was called the Kovaipudur Neighbourhood Scheme, and provision was made for about 1,850 houses, says Hariharan. Congress leader K. Kamaraj laid the foundation stone on June 19, 1964. Initially, activity centered around the ex-servicemen’s colony. Then, other areas came up. From the lone Wisdom school, the area has become a hub for schools and colleges. Even today, the foundation stupa stands erect, though uncared for, in memory of a dream that did come true.